Everyone’s heard of the Hunger Games. They’re a huge phenomenon, especially with the movies coming out. I’m not going to bash the Hunger Games, I love them (except maybe Mockingjay), and they’re about the only post-apocalypse/distopian society books I can stand. That being said, although they’re definitely a huge step above Twilight, there are better teen books out there with plot lines that are much more complex than the Katniss-Gale-Peeta love traingle.
Take Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue for example. Never heard of them? You’re not alone. Her debut novel, Graceling, was released in 2008, but it wasn’t until a couple years later that I got my hands on it. The story centers on a teenage girl named Katsa who is graced with fighting. Because of her skills she is used by royalty as an assassin, but then she meets a boy, Prince Po, who helps her realize she doesn’t have to do what she’s told. They fall in love (triangle free), but their love is not the purpose of the story: It’s a story of oppression, rebellion, bravery, forgiveness and deceit.
Next, instead of creating a sequel, which would’ve been the obvious next step, Cashore wrote a companion for Graceling called Fire. Set in the same realm as Graceling, Fire takes many years earlier in a different kingdom. This story follows another strong herione, Fire, a beautiful but strange creature. There is one common character between the books, and while it’s not imperative that the reader have finished Graceling, the back story of this character is beautifully and terribly unwoven throughout Fire which lead to many of those “ah-ha” moments that we readers all love.
Then, in 2012, Bitterblue was released, a sequel to Graceling that takes place eight years later. This book takes a more somber turn and addresses some of the most serious issues in the series. It follows the story of young Queen Bitterblue as she uncovers the truth of her past. She must unravel the tangled web left by her father and restore order to her kingdom, all while moonlighting as a poor castle servant and learning the truths of her people. Favorite characters from Fire and Graceling come together, bringing resolution to the kingdom. However, the ending is ultimately left open to interpretation (or another novel, hint hint).
Series like this make me wonder what else is out there that doesn’t get as much attention from the media. Part of me wants these books to get the recognition I know they deserve, but the other part wants to keep them as my own personal treasures. However, I have now shared with you the greatness that is the saga of the gracelings, and I expect you to take full advantage of that.